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'If you show initiative in Zwolle, you get all the cooperation'

Melle Mijnhardt is a Zwolle native

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Melle Mijnhardt rented out all the billboards in Zwolle for two weeks this spring. She filled them with art and opened the imaginary Outdoor Museum. It is one of the striking projects with which she manifests herself as an artist and owner of FABRIEKFANATIEK. "When you initiate something yourself in Zwolle, the favor factor is great. That's a nice climate to do business in."

Photographer: Kasper Veenstra

Zwolle was a bit of a shock

"I ended up in Zwolle to study Illustration at ArtEZ. To be honest, that took some getting used to. Before that I studied at the University of Amsterdam and I thought I would miss life there very much. In Amsterdam you can go to a concert or performance every night. I certainly didn't have that idea about Zwolle. I only knew the city because an uncle and aunt lived here and also taught at ArtEZ. Yet I quickly built up a circle of friends. And that's exactly why I wouldn't leave Zwolle so soon.

Happy in Assendorp

But I've also come to appreciate the city of Zwolle. Especially in my neighborhood Assendorp I feel very happy. It seems like everyone there is busy with music, art or culture. The neighbourhood is full of tinkering and I feel very much at home with that. I also live in a beautiful place and look out on the Dominican monastery. I like the fact that Zwolle is small enough to pop in quickly to see friends, without first making an appointment. In that respect I still seem to be a village girl.

Pooh or star power

I was born in Otterlo, at the entrance to the Hoge Veluwe. Because I grew up there, I think nature is perhaps so important. That's another reason why I'm happy with Zwolle. You don't have to cycle thirty kilometers before you're in the green. I find it beautiful everywhere around the city, with the IJssel River and the English Work as favorites. The friendly and easy-going character of the inhabitants also suits me. They don't like fuss or star power here. When it comes to business assignments, you talk within three minutes about what needs to be done. I really like that down-to-earthness.

Raw and exciting

On the other hand, it shouldn't get out of hand. That feeling of safety and togetherness is wonderful, but sometimes it has to be a bit raw and exciting. If I feel that something is missing, I try to address that myself. You can complain, but that won't get you anywhere. I used to organize parties with friends that we thought Zwolle was missing. The Outdoor Museum also came into being that way.

From Instagram to Museum

I do a lot of commissioned work for companies and organizations that are committed to culture and society. In addition, I make autonomous work. During the corona pandemic I started to focus more and more on that. Then you think about how you can go outside of Instagram. I was looking for a way of exhibiting that suits me and makes art accessible to everyone. That's what the Outdoor Museum does."

Niches and experiments

When you take an initiative like this yourself, you get all the cooperation in Zwolle. It feels as if people, including the municipality, are pleased that you are undertaking something. I think that's great to see. It's also good for a city. I think it's important that art and culture are very pluralistic and diverse. Besides the big concerts and performances, you need experiments and people who explore the niches. In Zwolle, more and more is happening in that respect. The city is asking for it. You saw that, for example, in the success of pop-up restaurant Bennies at the Harculo power station. Such initiatives make a city richer."

Art Flow Zwolle

My work can be seen this summer during the art route Art Flow Zwolle. Everywhere in the city you can see the work of national and international artists. It's great that the city council understands the importance of bringing art to the people. It also provides great exposure for my free work. Until recently I mainly worked on commission. It's very cool to help clients with their request, but it's even cooler to make something you like to tell and that others appreciate, because they recognize themselves in it."

The Top 3 of Melle Mijnhardt

  • "At Gandhi on the Old Fish Market you eat the most delicious Indian food, although I should add that I have never been to India. It's a small restaurant with very sweet owners and friendly staff."
  • "I love coming to the Perron Theatre of Theatre Group the Young Dogs. There you see special performances in a very original location. A nice addition to Zwolse Theaters, where I also like to come by the way!"
  • "Like many other artists, I work with FabriekFanatiek from DOAS. I think that former vocational school is perhaps the most beautiful building in Zwolle. Every door and window has been thought about. That you can sit in it..."

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